Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “development”

Black Swan Event

Black Swan Event  =  an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences

Up until the late 1600’s naturalists assumed that all swans were white.  However, in 1697 the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlaminck discovered black swans in Australia.  This unexpected event upended assumed paradigms and profoundly changed zoology.

Today, our English vocabulary has co-opted this to coin the phrase, ‘black swan event’ where something very unexpected happens that has huge ramifications.  One can imagine how the terrorist’s attacks of 9/11/01 were a ‘black swan event.’  It would also seem that the Covid-19 pandemic is another one.

These events are unprecedented and human wisdom fails to be able to adequately address them because worldly wisdom is founded upon previous experience.  When there is no prior experience to fall back upon (unprecedented), at best we draw from parallel experiences or insights to deal with a completely new situation.

But Kingdom leaders have a second and more reliable source of wisdom for leading in turbulent times – wisdom that comes from above, godly wisdom.  Young and old alike may posses God’s wisdom, for it is a gift.  James 1:5 promises that those who ask for it will receive it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  (ESV)  We desperately need this kind of wisdom now!

With the traditional forms of ministry being taken away (i.e. group gatherings large and small), new virtual gatherings (think online video conferences) are rapidly becoming the norm.  Life-to-life discipling still continues but we now connect via our computer or phone screens instead of in person.  The old mantra of ‘form follows function’ is proving true as new ministry forms are being adopted and adapted to meet our functional needs.  It’s a very new day!

As our old ways are swept away by the raging torrent of rapidly changing events around us, we must look to Him for help and the ability to meet the demands of our new situation.  These events have not taken Him by surprise.  In fact, He is orchestrating all for His good purposes and for the advancement of the Kingdom among the peoples of the world.

The headlines and news leads shout woe and sadness.  But God’s work is often unseen and quiet in the midst of the storm.  We must keep our eyes steadfastly on Him as we navigate the storm.

… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…    Hebrews 12:1-2  NIV

 

Pay Attention to Morale!

 

Morale is the greatest single factor in successful warfare.

     Dwight Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe  

Leaders who neglect the morale of those they lead will pay a big price and lose much momentum in the mission by just assuming that all is well.  Here’s several thoughts on how to maintain good morale.

Never underestimate the importance of your presence.  Just showing up with those you are leading does a great deal for their morale.  You being with them, paying individual attention to them, goes a long way to keeping morale high.  And when you visit with them, ask them questions about what they are learning, what the Lord has been teaching them, or what things you can be praying for them.  And when you do ask them, note their answers and be sure you pray over their requests.  Then, follow up with them in the future.  Your personal attention will mean a lot.

Loose lips sink ships – this phrase originated during WW2 to remind all to beware of unguarded talk.  So too for leaders who carelessly talk about things that can breed distrust or fear in the minds of those they lead.  Think about what you are saying and guard you lips on topics that can distract or create undue fear of the future.  Rather, use your words to point people to Christ, our hope in Him, and His promise to see us through and never leave us.

Rumors spread like wildfires and when any unfounded rumor comes to your attention address it fully and quickly.  Don’t assume that it will just die on its own.  Rumors have ways of growing into wildfires of fear and can create full-blown panic if not addressed.

Any lack of communication from leadership and people tend to think the worst.  This can be true of an individual or a group.  Make it your habit to regularly keep those you lead informed.

Affirm, affirm, affirm!!  You speak at a volume of 3 but are heard at a volume of 9 because you are the leader.  Use this reality to benefit others!  Don’t flatter but affirm!  Find someone doing something right and tell them about it!

Do you know the morale of your troops?  Are they hearing from you regularly?  Are you out among them?

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 7

The Lord will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

The Lord often uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel and the fourth is critical thinking.  The fifth and final common means is circumstances.  The Lord can use extra-ordinary means – visions, dreams – but, most often it is these five.

The more of the five things that we see agreeing, pointing in the same direction, the more certain we can be that this is God’s will.  If one or two agree, but the others don’t, we have two possibilities.  It may be God’s will, but the wrong timing.  Or, it may not be God’s will.  In either case, it’s best to wait; time will clarify.  Immaturity will press ahead when things are not clear and pay a big price!    Proverbs 19:2 (NIV) says, “Desire without knowledge is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”

God being God, He will not allow circumstances, governments, organizations, or anyone with authority over us to hinder His plan for us.  In fact, He uses them to direct us to His plan for us (see Joseph in Genesis 50:20).

Remember, the foundation is surrender to doing God’s will.  We can deceive ourselves.  We can find verses to justify about anything.  We can “have peace” about a lot of things.  Satan can open doors for us also.

God knows this.  He knows we can be confused.  He will not let His children stray from His will if they desire it.  So relax.  He will keep you in the way and guide you every step of the process.  He’ll also keep you from wrong decisions.  It gives us a great deal of confidence in facing the future.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

And he will direct your paths.           Proverbs 3:5-6  (NIV)

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 6

The Lord will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

The Lord often uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel and the fourth is critical thinking.  The fifth and final means is circumstances.

God will open doors to guide us.  He will also close doors to lead us to other open doors.  But the enemy can also create opportunities and seek to confuse with multiple choices, all seemingly good.  How to know is the closed door permanently closed or is it simply a matter of continuing to knock and wait until it opens?

In Acts 16:6-10 (ESV) we read, “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

It seems that Paul’s strategy was to plant the gospel in major cities that were transportation and communication hubs.  On this, his second ministry tour, he completed visiting the cities from the first tour and now was going to go to Ephesus – the major city in the province of Asia.  Logic and strategy dictated this as the next destination.  But, God, through the Holy Spirit (a prophet, vision, dream?) prevented this from happening.  The door closed.

The team redirected north to Bithynia and then to Mysia.  Both were again blocked from entering by the Spirit, finally ending in the port city of Troas.  It was here that Paul had a vision (note the extra-ordinary means of direction) to come into Macedonia (northern Greece).  Europe was next in God’s plan, but it was not originally part of Paul’s.  Ephesus was reached eventually, but it would be several years later on Paul’s third tour.

The Spirit will let you know if the door is closed and you should redirect or just be patient and trust and He will open it in His time.  Tune your heart to His voice and you will hear it.

 

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 5

The Lord will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

Remember, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What color should I paint my wall?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God asking me to assume this ministry leadership role?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel.  The fourth is critical thinking.

It was Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, who said, “God gave you a lot of leading when He gave you a brain.  So use it!”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Note that it does not say to forget your own understanding.  Rather, it says ‘do not lean on your own understanding.’  That is, do not put your full weight upon your ability to understand.  You often can’t think your way into the will of God for many times God’s will is counter-intuitive and ‘illogical’ from the world’s perspective.

But neither should we throw away our brain when working through an important decision.  I will often make a ‘pro-con’ or ‘plus-minus’ list.  In one column I’ll list all the things that I sense are positive about this decision.  The other column are those items that seem negative or I have major concerns about.  Then I reflect and pray for discernment over both columns.

Think it through.  Reflect on it and ask the Lord for objectivity over yourself.  Ask for Him to give you His perspective on this and insight into the consequences in the future – both good and bad – of this decision.

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 2

Because God is God, He will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

Note, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What will I have for lunch today?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God calling me into vocational ministry?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  You can expect to have specific biblical passages or Scriptural promises that speak to the decision you are working through.

Obviously, if something is contrary to a direct teaching or command in Scripture, or contrary to God’s character, it is not the will of God (i.e. marrying a non-Christian – see 2 Corinthians 6:14).  But God can also speak to us concerning our specific situations through personal promises from the Bible.  The Holy Spirit will confirm in  your heart that this is God’s promise to you.  For more details, see Praying Over God’s Promises.

In Psalm 119:105 (ESV) we read, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  The Word of God is like a small, hand-held, oil lamp that sheds enough light for us to take a few steps, illuminating the path as we move ahead.  It’s only enough light for the next few steps, but as we go, we have light for the next few steps.  See also Proverbs 6:22-23.

When wrestling with decisions have an expectant attitude as you interact with God’s Word.  You may hear Him speaking while in your morning devotions, when listening to a Sunday sermon, or He may bring to mind a passage you have memorized.  His direction from the Word will often be multiple passages, not just a singular one.  He does not want us confused or mistaking His voice for another’s.

Jesus promises us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27 (ESV)

Servant Leaders and Sacrifice

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.      Mark 10:45   ESV

Kingdom leaders often refer to the above statement of Jesus as a defining text for servant leadership.  They define a servant leader by one who has certain humble values and one who does certain servant-like activities.  But we often miss the import of the statement by ignoring the final phrase – “… and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It was the sacrificial leadership of Jesus that he was pointing the Twelve to as He contrasted Kingdom leadership with the world’s.  Yes, the world’s leaders used their power and influence to ‘lord it over’ others and to promote self-serving causes.  By contrast, His example was to humble Himself and use His power and influence to serve others. But He did not stop there in His explanation of Kingdom leadership.

He went on to say that His example would end in the great sacrifice – His death on the cross – paying our debt for sin and taking on the punishment we deserve.  It is the sacrificial nature of Christ’s Kingdom leadership that truly sets it apart from the benevolent, ‘turn the organizational pyramid upside down’ type of leadership that is promoted by many as true servant leadership.

Kingdom leaders who follow the example of Jesus are called to lead with personal sacrifice as a hallmark of their leadership style.  It is this that helps set Kingdom leaders apart.  Not only are they humble servants, but they are also willing to give up all for the sake of serving others.  This is a great, high calling and privilege.  Some may even be called to die for their King –  the ultimate sacrifice of a servant leader.

The story is told of a band of Moravian missionaries who sailed from Europe to the South Pacific seeking to take the gospel to the native peoples of some scattered islands.  While on the long sea voyage they led the ship’s captain and many of the crew to faith in Christ.  Finally arriving at their destination they anchored offshore and saw the local peoples gathering at the shoreline making threatening gestures.

The captain and crew pleaded with the missionaries not to disembark as they feared that they would be attacked and die as they reached shore.  To this, the leader of the missionary band replied, “Sir, you don’t understand.  We have already died.”  They disembarked, landed and were summarily killed on the beach.

These paid the great price of servant leadership.  Sacrifice for the cause of the advance of the Kingdom – even to the point of death if needed – is the mark of the King and His Kingdom leaders.  Jesus modeled it and we are called to follow.

Breaking Gridlock!

So, you have delegated authority to another to execute some well-defined responsibility.  They have been faithful to carry out the responsibility to the best of their ability, but now, a problem has arisen.  They’re stuck and can’t seem to move it any further.  You determine it’s not for lack of effort, but they can’t move ahead without some additional help.  What to do?

You’re sensitive to the impulse just to jump in and solve a problem that needs fixing, not wanting to micro-manage a situation.  And you want to maximize this delegated responsibility to grow the person.  Taking the pressure off them removes some of God’s best training moments as they wrestle with seeking Him and asking for His help (not yours).

But when is it appropriate to enter back into this gridlock and get things unstuck?  Here’s a couple of guidelines that can help.

1.  Remember that there is a difference between delegating authority to another and having their authority recognized by others – especially if they are leading their peers.  You may have that recognized final authority, but their peers may not.

2.  Don’t be too quick to jump in and solve something for someone you’ve given responsibility to, unless there is a pending deadline that demands action now.  Let them try to move it themselves and see the Lord do what only He can do.  We want them dependent on Him, not you.

3.  Having done the above, there are times when you have to engage in situations and get things unstuck, breaking gridlock between two or more opinions and bringing alignment (and hopefully agreement) to move forward.  The important thing is that all parties feel well listened to and taken seriously.  But, having done so, we still may not agree.

4.  When you re-engage and bring your authority to break the impasse, you can be viewed as a dictator who only wants to get his/her own way.  You can mitigate this by saying something like, “We have to move this forward, so here’s what I’d suggest.  Let’s do ‘x’ for the next (period of time) and then stop to re-evaluate the results.”  So, you are communicating that this is not the end of it all.  We are going to try to go this direction for a period and then stop to see if we are getting the outcomes we hoped for.  You show sensitivity, teachability, and yet a desire to move this ahead.

5.  Once you’ve communicated the decision and all understand that we all will align to this new direction, your job it not done.  Keep the responsibility with the one you delegated to.  Don’t take it back.  Let them see it through to completion.

6.  Set some calendar reminder with all involved as to when we will re-evaluate this decision and its outcomes.  This helps remove angst for those who may feel like they ‘lost’ and shows you are serious about this future review and not just saying something to assuage their feelings.

Break the gridlock when necessary.  But do it wisely!

God’s Discipline – Ouch!

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.     Hebrews 12:11  ESV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”   John 15:1-2  ESV

Maturity, fruitfulness, and the discipline of God are linked.  Hebrews 12 describes the process of God disciplining those whom He loves and that He does it for good.  The discipline of God is intended for good – to yield good fruit in our lives.  Thus, we should not be surprised by it and must embrace it – lean into it, rather than seek to run from it.

We note that when in the midst of pain and hard times, discipline does not feel good.  It’s not pleasant and does not seem to be good at the moment.  But afterwards, when the time of the Lord’s discipline ends, we see its benefit in our lives and leadership.  What does the Lord’s discipline look like in the life of a Kingdom leader?

The pruning of the Lord’s discipline is a taking away or a cutting out of our lives.  He intends to create even more dependency upon Him through it.  While the Lord is quite creative in the means He chooses to discipline those whom He loves, here are several common means that He uses to shape the lives of those He desires to be even more fruitful.

1.  Loss  –  loss of position, influence, job, finances, relationships

2.  Affliction  –  physical illness, harassment, on-going conflict

3.  Opposition  –  spiritual, emotional, and physical opposition, ‘headwinds’

The Lord can even use our adversary to further His plan of discipline in our lives.  Look at the life of Job and how God allowed him, within limits, to suffer loss, affliction, and opposition from his ‘friends.’  Yet, the Lord preserved Job and restored him in the end.

The discipline of the Lord is not pleasant – not something we look forward to or get excited about entering into.  Yet, when it comes, and it does come, we must receive it, submit to it, and trust Him who is good and always does what is good.  We will see the wisdom of God and experience the fruitfulness He intends as we persevere through it.

Don’t be surprised by the Lord’s discipline.  It comes to all of His children.  He is not punishing you.  Rather, He will see you through it and make you and your leadership even more fruitful because of it.

… a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench…   Isaiah 42:3  ESV

 

Leading from Trust Relationships

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.                   Luke 5:4-11  ESV

Early in His relationship with these two pairs of brothers who were also fishing partners, Jesus needed to establish a trust relationship for He would ask them to follow Him into an unknown (to them) future.  Their sacrifice and cost would be great and He, knowing this, had to establish a platform of trust from which they would be willing to follow Him.

Note Peter’s response when instructed to put out into deeper water and let down their nets.  He knew that daytime was not the time to fish.  He knew that they had already tried and failed on their own.  They had lots of previous experience and fishing was their expertise, so why do this futile exercise?

Peter says to Jesus, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” This was foundational in his relationship with Jesus – obedience to Jesus and not logic, experience or worldly wisdom was key.  He trusted the word of Jesus, no doubt with some hesitancy, and was rewarded with an amazing haul of fish.  Peter’s response was submission and a willingness to follow Christ and His leadership, even to the point of leaving his vocation.

Kingdom leaders lead from a platform of trust that we build between ourselves and those we lead.  This trust is built over time as we ask others to trust our judgment and follow our lead.

Trust is earned, not given.  It is built over time as we make deposits into our ‘trust bank account.’ But it can be quickly lost and the bank account emptied through untrustworthy behavior.

Major on building trust with those you lead and they will follow!

 

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